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Constitution subject of USD political science professor's new book

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The United States Constitution sets the framework for our entire political/governmental system, frequently producing heated debates about what this document means especially in an election year like 2012. Rather than arguing further or picking up where political pundits left off, Donald Dahlin, emeritus professor of political science at the University of South Dakota, has chosen to offer a different approach to the Constitution through his own thought-provoking analysis in his book, “We the People: A Brief Introduction to the Constitution and Its Interpretation.”

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, the book was an idea that Dahlin, Ph.D, developed a couple of years ago when he decided that the Constitution is such an important document that it deserved an objective approach. So rather than focus on selling the reader his own interpretation, Dahlin wanted to write a book where, in the end, the reader makes his or her own judgments regarding constitutional issues.

While the first three chapters delve into the Constitution’s structure and history, Dahlin devotes more than 80 pages to the “Top Ten Supreme Court Decisions” chapter, outlining a framework of legal decisions dating back more than two centuries interpreting the “supreme law of the land.”

“Anyone who takes classes in government in college or a high school civics course is going to be confronted with the Constitution,” said Dahlin, who has taught at USD since the fall of 1966. “I think it’s more important for someone reading about the Constitution to be able to interpret its importance, its significance in their own way. It gives them a better inventory to use to change their own mind or reaffirm their own opinion.”

The timing of Dahlin’s book is also appropriate as its release comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision ruling the Affordable Care Act constitutional. He believes that decision and the state of the current political climate will drive readership of “We the People,” which he authored to serve as a supplemental text for undergraduate classes in American Government or political science.

“We’re not all going to agree,” noted Dahlin, who is a Vice President for Academic Affairs Emeritus at USD and a Fellow of the Institute for Court Management. “This book serves as a platform for our debates and it gives everyone a chance to become more knowledgeable about some of the Supreme Court’s most recognizable decisions.”

“We the People” is Dahlin’s second book. In 1986, Associated Faculty Press published “Models of Court Management.” While writing a book is an arduous process, Dahlin isn’t ruling out publishing a third book. His expertise and research combined with subject matter derived from “We the People” have gotten him off to a good start, including a title: “The Supreme Court’s Constitution: A Citizen’s Guide.”

For order information or for more about the author, please go to A photo of Dahlin is available for download at


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Hanna DeLange
USD News